Scientists Are Flying Into Snowstorms to Explore Winter Weather Mysteries ~ NPR


February 27, 2023

So — During one of Jackson’s cold winters back in the last century, I put a pan of water, late at night, when the temp was about -35 F, on my deck rail with a thermometer, hoping to actually see liquid water cooled below 0 degrees C.  This would be proof that water in its pure form would exist below freeing temps.  My pan of water began to freeze at 0 degrees C.  Even though my water came from a well, it had a hard water count of about 32 grains (Not sure what this meant), but even though it went thru a water softener, it still must have had some impurities. Secondly, every time someone in the house closed a door, or caused some vibration in the framework of the house, there could have been some movement in my sample of water on the deck rail.

My experiment to see super cooled water on my deck rail failed.

Rod Newcomb 



A fine story

all of those home style 

experiments/empirical evidence 

have led to better understanding

or at least supported by what Thomas Edison said,

“there is no such thing as failure, only 

experiments that don’t work out.”

i believe that

thanks Rod



Jerry and Rod,’No such thing as failure, only experiments which don’t work out’.   That pretty much describes me with trying to figure out the weather a month or more ahead.   But I am not bored.

Peter Lev



You sure this wasn’t part of a martini experiment? Next time try vodka or gin, shaken not stirred. One 🫒 This winter has sure been a doozy!


Mike and Karen Friedman


Loved seeing what you generated with the super cooled water post.  I love Newcomb!   A Lear Jet full of nerds flying around trying to do what Rod was doing on his deck rail in Wilson in the ‘70’s. 

Wally Berg




~~~ LISTEN ~~~

High up in some ice-filled clouds, sitting inside an airplane loaded with science instruments, Christian Nairy looked at pictures flashing on his computer screen. This high-altitude slideshow is displaying real-time images of cloud particles being sampled by a device out on the plane’s wing — and some of the ice crystals looked like perfect little snowflakes.

“They’re amazing to look at. Especially when they pop up right in front of you on the screen, it’s remarkable,” said Nairy, a Ph.D. student at the University of North Dakota.

He’s just one of the scientists who was aboard a research plane earlier this month as it flew out of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to travel through a winter storm — part of a research campaign called IMPACTS, or the Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Storms mission.

IMPACTS mission researchers inside the research plane, monitoring weather data being collected by onboard instruments.

Erica McNamee/NASA

It’s been gathering the kind of information that could someday help weather forecasters better predict whether a winter storm might cause treacherous conditions that would require shutting down schools, closing roads, and canceling flights.

Until this mission, which started in 2020 and ends February 28, there hadn’t been a major airborne study of winter storms in the eastern half of the United States in about 30 years, says Lynn McMurdie, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“We’ve had some really good storms,” says McMurdie. “Whatever Mother Nature gives us, we will go fly in it. We are going out and trying to get the whole range, from a super snowstorm that blocks all the traffic up and down the East Coast to ‘oh, this is just a normal rainstorm, why do you care?’ “

Meanwhile, another research plane, the ER-2, frequently follows the same flight path, but at higher altitudes of over 60,000 feet. It has instruments that also gather data about the storm, from above.

“I think what makes this most special is that we are coordinating these two aircraft,” says McMurdie, “and looking for this huge range of storms.”

One thing researchers hope to understand is the role of supercooled liquid water in storm clouds. Under certain conditions, water can stay in a liquid form down to minus 34 degrees Celsius — around minus 29 degrees Fahrenheit.

Small droplets of this supercooled water sometimes adhere to snow crystals. “Imagine a beautiful snowflake, and then it has all these little tiny dots. It looks like it has a case of the measles, or something,” says McMurdie.

What they’ve seen so far, she says, suggests that this kind of water is an important aspect of the snow bands, perhaps leading to more water content, more ice particles, and eventually more snowfall on the ground.

The massive amounts of data gathered from above, below and inside this diverse array of winter storms should give meteorologists much to mull over in the coming years, and hopefully end up incorporated into forecasting models, so that future weather reports will give a better sense of what a storm might be capable of.

“I’m continually surprised every time we go up and fly,” says McMurdie. “Everytime, there is something that is like, ‘Really? What is going on there?’ “

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